Russian Convicted Over Killing Of Chechen Asylum Seeker In Austria

Sources in the Chechen diaspora have told RFE/RL that the victim was Mamikhan Umarov, a Chechen separatist who ran a video blog critical of Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov.  

A court in Austria has sentenced a Russian man to life in prison after he was convicted of murdering a 43-year-old Chechen in a Vienna suburb last year in a case that drew international attention amid claims the killing had been politically motivated.

A spokesman for the regional court in Korneuburg said on August 6 that jurors reached a unanimous verdict in the case during the one-day trial.

The defendant was a 48-year-old ethnic Chechen who wasn’t named for privacy reasons, court spokesman Wolfgang Schuster-Kramer said.

The defendant had pleaded not guilty and vowed to appeal when the verdict was delivered, according to the court spokesman.

Members of the Chechen exile community in Austria had suggested that the victim of the July 2020 slaying might have been targeted for criticizing Kremlin-backed Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov.

But the court was presented with no concrete evidence proving that the killing was politically motivated, Schuster-Kramer said.

Austrian police have not named the victim, but sources in the Chechen diaspora have told RFE/RL that the victim was Mamikhan Umarov, a Chechen separatist who ran a video blog critical of Kadyrov and worked with Austrian intelligence. He had received asylum in Austria.

Prosecutors said the victim was shot several times, including once in the head from a close distance, shortly after the men met at an industrial estate in Gerasdorf, northeast of Vienna.

Blood from the victim and gunpowder particles were found on the clothing of the defendant.

A defense lawyer blamed the shooting on the victim’s bodyguard, Austrian public broadcaster ORF reported.

There have been several assaults outside of Russia in recent months on critics of Kadyrov.

In January, a court in Sweden sentenced two Russian citizens from Chechnya to lengthy prison terms for their roles in last year’s attempted killing of Tumso Abdurakhmanov, an exiled Chechen blogger and outspoken critic of the North Caucasus region’s Moscow-backed leader.

In August 2019, Zelimkhan Khangoshvili, a former Chechen separatist fighter who had fled from Georgia to Germany, was shot dead in Berlin. A Russian national suspected in that killing went on trial in Germany in October.

Rights groups have accused Kadyrov, who has ruled Chechnya since 2007, of numerous human rights abuses, including kidnappings, tortures, extrajudicial killings, disappearances, and the targeted killings of political and personal rivals both in Russia and abroad.

He has denied the accusations.

With reporting by AP and AFP

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